Protecting or enabling?

Push for New York to provide medical oversight of heroin users could do more harm than good


Well, my child is going to do it anyway, so I’d rather they do it in front of me.

It’s the mindset some parents have when it comes to their adolescent children and drugs like alcohol and marijuana. The feeling is that it’s safer for a child to do drugs in their home and company of their parents, rather than behind their parents’ back without supervision and in an environment they’re unfamiliar with.

It seems like some in New York State have the same mentality – but with addicts and heroin.

In response to the state’s growing heroin crisis, some public health groups are pushing New York lawmakers to create clinics where people can use heroin under the supervision of medical professionals to prevent overdoses.

While such an initiative would undoubtedly help prevent heroin overdoses, as medical staff could ensure a user does not take too much and could respond to an overdose in a more timely fashion that police, we fear it could send the wrong message about drug abuse and lead down a slippery slope.

Providing users an opportunity to use heroin with at a low risk may encourage them to continue to use. It’s same argument some make about Narcan, the antidote police – including University Police at UB – use to save those overdosing on heroin. Some feel police should stop using Narcan to save the lives of addicts, as it encourages addicts to continue to use because they know emergency services can save them. Some police departments across the country share stories of saving the same person from an overdose time after time.

While we support the use of Narcan – emergency services cannot let a person die whom they have the ability to save – we feel this recent push takes it too far.

This could lead to allowing illegal drug use for all drugs. What’s next? Meth? Would heroin be legal to use in these clinics? Where is the line drawn for illegal drugs to actually be illegal?

What kind of message does this send to those considering using heroin for the first time? A teenager who would otherwise be too afraid to try heroin may be more inclined to do so if he or she knows they can do it in a room full of medical professionals.

The groups pushing for this initiative should reshape their approach. The clinics should not just provide users a safe place to use heroin, it should be a place for users to slowly wean themselves off the drug will under the watch of professionals. Perhaps that is the groups’ intentions. If so, it hasn’t been specified.

As of now it seems these medical groups’ goal is to simply allow users to use heroin in a safe environment, like a misguided parent allowing their child to drinks beers or smoke a joint in their home because it’s safer that way.

But it’s not safer in the long run. And it may create more heroin addicts in the process.

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